As part of our effort to engage candidates for governor in nine states this year on the economic opportunity provided by advanced energy, Advanced Energy Economy released a policy roadmap for Illinois on April 19 and delivered that roadmap to the major party nominees, Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Outlining a range of executive, legislative, and regulatory actions that the next governor can take to ensure continued growth of the state’s advanced energy sector, this roadmap shows the way to capitalize on the policy and business foundation already in place in Illinois and build on it, for the benefit of customers and the Illinois economy. Plus, an advertising campaign and website will provide a way for Illinoisans to learn about advanced energy – and sign up as Advanced Energy Voters!
A strong energy sector has always been the lifeblood of the Illinois economy. A reliable and affordable energy system has not only provided thousands of jobs and millions of local tax dollars, but also attracted businesses that want low electricity costs. Illinois can continue to achieve these goals while modernizing its electric grid by committing to the deployment of advanced energy technologies.
With more than 119,000 people employed in advanced energy, Illinois is already the Midwestern leader in advanced energy jobs. However, despite significant growth of Illinois’ advanced energy industry, the state continues to only scratch the surface of economic development that could be unlocked through increased deployment of wind, solar, energy storage, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and demand response, among other technologies.
Take wind and solar. In 2017 alone, wind energy produced in Illinois powered more than 1 million homes, a number that is forecast to increase significantly under the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA). Signed in December 2016, FEJA fortified Illinois’ existing 25% RPS by putting its funding mechanisms in statute, a move that injected new life into the standard without making it subject to partisan politics or annual budget proposals.
As a result, FEJA is expected to lead to the development of more than 4 GW of new wind and solar generation in Illinois by 2030, drawing an estimated $12 billion to $15 billion in new private investment into the state over that timeframe. The next Illinois governor can, and should, ensure that advanced energy resources deployed in future years under FEJA are implemented in an equitable and effective manner for all market segments and consumers.
But opportunities still exist to go beyond FEJA and maximize efforts to save consumers money by developing new energy efficiency and demand response programs; modernizing Illinois’ electric grid; electrifying the state’s transportation sector; and removing barriers that prevent corporate customers from powering their operations with more renewable energy.
AEE’s Illinois policy roadmap shows the way. It provides a set of recommendations that AEE hopes will be incorporated into the energy policy agenda of each gubernatorial nominee. AEE is also currently running a digital ad campaign to raise awareness of advanced energy and its benefits for Illinois businesses and consumers, linked to a new website that offers the opportunity to get involved as an Advanced Energy Voter.
Later this Spring, both gubernatorial nominees will have an opportunity to share their visions for Illinois energy through roundtable meetings with AEE member companies. AEE conducted the first of these member roundtables on Feb. 6 in Chicago, with participants that represented nearly every industry segment. A common theme at the roundtable was that the deployment of advanced energy resources creates a “multiplier effect,” where the benefits don’t just add up, they grow exponentially.
At AEE, we couldn’t agree more. In the United States, advanced energy has become a $200 billion industry, as large as the U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, and employs more than 3 million domestic workers.
By adopting a policy agenda that incorporates advanced energy resources, the next Illinois governor can not only expedite the state’s transition to a secure, clean, affordable energy system but also create the next wave of high-paying jobs built to endure over the long-term. Ultimately, when the next governor declares that Illinois is open for business, we are confident he will be talking about advanced energy.